The 10 Most Common Mistakes Marketing Your Local Business Online

Most small businesses have some form of web presence these days – a website, Facebook page, maybe some YouTube videos – but not very many are taking advantage of the true (and often free) power of the internet to market their business.

Here is my Top 10 list of common mistakes – things that businesses are NOT doing. They’re leaving lots of money on the table and probably throwing away lots of money in other places …

(I presented this material at a seminar at the Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce in Shelton, CT recently. Click here for the replay: online marketing for local businesses – it’s broken down one video per “mistake”.)

1. Not Having a Free Offer. Do you know how many people visit your website each month? How many of them call or email you? How many buy? What happens to all those other people? How about those people you meet at events – the ones you don’t have time (or desire) to follow-up with? What if you had a way to automatically engage and keep in touch with these people? Start by creating something of value – a coupon, video series, e-book – that you can give away (electronically) in exchange for an email address. Put a sign-up box on your website and shift your focus from selling your product to “selling” your free giveaway. Now, “touch” these people on a regular basis …

2. Not Sending Regular Emails to Everyone in Your Database. (Or doing it the WRONG way) It’s so much easier to sell to existing customers. This is the low hanging fruit – marketing to your existing database helps with referrals and repeat business by keeping you “top of mind”. It’s also a good way to sell other products that you or an affiliate company may offer. The key here is to have good, helpful, interesting content, and send it out with the right frequency.

3. Making it Hard for People to Contact You. Why would you go out of your way to hide your phone number and address on your website? I can’t tell you how many websites I’ve visited where this information was either hard to find or was only in a picture (where Google can’t find it). Your phone number should be large at the top right of the page and your address should be at the bottom of every page, along with a general email address.

4. Not Knowing Your Main Keywords. Just about anything you do online gets indexed by Google. The way to get found online is by understanding and using the proper keywords in your website pages, Linkedin profiles, Facebook pages, etc. Many people focus on optimizing their site for keywords without truly knowing what keywords to optimize for. How can you bait a hook if you don’t know what the fish will bite at? Ask your customers, friends, and try googling different words yourself and see if your competition shows up. Set up Google analytics (free) on your site and get REAL scientific data on what words people are using.

5. Not Being Everywhere Online. Online is not just about having a website. Google looks at other sites that link back to your main site – local directories, Yelp, Manta, Facebook, Youtube, article sites, blogs, etc. The more places you can put your keywords, website address, phone number, and address, the better. You’ll cast a much wider net, having more places to show up in a Google search, while also making your main website more relevant (because other sites are linking to it).

6. Not Having 5 Reviews on Google Places. (Now Google + Local – see this post for new information!!!!) This means reviews your customers leave themselves, not the ones they give you in a letter that you then put up on your website. This is really important – I have a client who finally got his 5th review and his Google Places rank jumped to #1 almost immediately!!! There’s something magical about having at least 5. So how do you do it? Send something to all of your customers stating that the first 5 that go on your Google Places page and leave a positive review will get a $50 gift card. Or, have each customer do it on YOUR laptop right after purchasing or signing the contract. The best thing about the act of soliciting testimonials: your customers are further solidifying in their mind the reasons why they bought from you and are then much more likely to buy again and/or recommend it to their friends!

7. No Videos or Videos Not Properly Optimized. Having videos on your website makes it 50x more likely to rank on the first page of Google than not having videos! And, having videos on Youtube is even more important, since Google owns Youtube, and many people (300 million a month) go there first to find information. Customer testimonials are best – or you can answer FAQ’s about your business. If you’re camera shy, make a Powerpoint and talk over it. The most important things to do (that most people don’t do) when uploading a video on Youtube: use your main keywords in the title, put a link to your website in the description (start with http://), include a specific call to action, set the location (w here the video was made) — AND keep the video length to 2 minutes or less!

8. Thinking People Care About You and Your Company. Ever heard the radio station WIFM? Also known as “what’s in it for me” – and that’s the mentality of the typical person hunting for something online. They don’t care about your bio or what your building looks like. They want what they want when they want it. Not because they are bad people; they are just overwhelmed. I suggest giving clear free information about what you do and about your industry, product, or service. Give away some of your secrets. This is reality: they’ll find it somewhere else online eventually, why not take the opportunity to position yourself as the local expert, and count on them reciprocating some day in the future (or telling their friends how helpful you were).

9. Not Updating Your Website on a Regular Basis. Just to clarify – regular does not mean once every 5 years! Content on the web is like produce at the grocery store. Everything has a sell by date on it. Your information will constantly be piled “on top of” by others who are creating newer information. The easiest way to stay current is with a blog hosted on your main website. A What’s New section on your home page is great, and a very good place for specials or coupon (that change on a regular basis!). Updates can be made “off-site” also. A great strategy is to upload new videos to Youtube or publish articles that link to your website. Try to do this once a week or once a month at the very least. Consistency counts!

10. Not Tracking EVERYTHING. The secret to writing good copy and ads, and creating offers, etc is not creativity, it’s testing. No matter how smart we think we are, we’ll never know if something will really work until we try it and measure it. Some of the ugliest ads and web pa ges make the most money. Therefore, try something, measure it, then tweak it until you get something that really works! Sometimes changing one word is enough to make a huge difference in response rate!! Use Google analytics to track website traffic and use unique phone numbers (Google voice is free) and offer codes to track all other offline ad campaigns.

Click here for the replay: online marketing for local businesses

Handout materials and downloads from the event can be found here

Questions? Send me an email – mike@CTLocalMarketing.com